Title Background

The Simonie: A Parallel-Text Edition ed. from MSS Advocates 19.2.1 Bodley 48, Bodley 48, and Peterhouse College 104.

The Simonie: A Parallel-Text Edition ed. from MSS Advocates 19.2.1 Bodley 48, Bodley 48, and Peterhouse College 104.

The radically different manuscript versions are assumed by the editors to have derived independently from a lost original, written 1322-26 to 1330 by a poet from the Fens. All extant versions are composed in an identical six-line stanza with haphazard alliteration employed in slightly less than half the long lines of each version. The vocabulary is less poetic and more English than that of WL or Chaucer, but is distinctive for its concreteness and vigor. The audience was the “still narrow but diverse middle stratum of medieval society.” Major themes include the triumph of the vices (greed in particular), the exile of the virtues, the complicity of all estates, and God’s imminent retribution – all rendered from a perspective sympathetic to those at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. The Advocates version (Auchinleck manuscript) shows more editing than re-writing, more cuts than expansions; the B redactor adds at least twenty unique stanzas; the C redactor is the poem’s “most enthusiastic and least competent reviser.” The poem’s significance lies in its value as a document of economic and social history; in its own right as a vigorous, concrete, and lively work; and in the fact of its being the earliest surviving comprehensive ME evil-times complaint – one that may well have influenced WL.

Volume

Middle English Texts 24. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1991.

Author

Embree, Dan, and Elizabeth Urquhart, eds.